For eight months in 2003 I picked rockmelons in a tiny settlement called Guthalungra, 50 kms north of Bowen on the Bruce Highway – a cluster of five houses, a service station that did equal duty as a store, a post -office, and most importantly a bar. The Canadian and I lived in the beach settlement 6 kms to the east of the roadhouse, where a gated dirt track followed the Elliott River out to the sea, ending in a cluster of fishing shacks. The whole small community was adorned with glass buoys, old nets, rusty beach-buggies, and a population of kangaroos so over-confident and so good at standover tactics with Lupa the cattle dog that food would go missing from the roof of our car in the middle of the night accompanied only by a gentle chomping, as a macropod made off with the bread.
It didn’t rain, and on every clear morning we drank our coffee and brushed our teeth on the edge of the Elliott, hoping to see a crocodile and watching the sun ooze over Cape Upstart to the north and Abbott Point to the south. Dingoes occasionally tried to abduct Lupa, and one morning some idiot in a four wheel drive hit a wallaby and didn’t stop to put it out of its misery, necessitating the wheel-brace method, but it was an idyllic place if you could come to terms with the midgies and the constant need to carry drinking water. We walked all over Abbott Point and Cape Upstart on our days off, and I trod on a stonefish and spent three days wishing I could die, or at least amputate my foot. My late best friend taught me to ride a motorbike on the forgiving sand, where even I struggled to hurt myself.
I don’t like stonefish much, but I am still pretty fond of all the other inhabitants of the reef, the bitey ones included, and of that big band of ever-changing coral that supports around 20 % of the marine life in our part of the world and ensures protection for coastal communities, the enormous biodiversity found in the mangrove stands along the coast, and the impossibility of getting a surf. That is why I am sending a crack team of stonefish after Greg Hunt. Feel free to help the stonefish out by signing any of the numerous petitions on the internet that are attempting to stop the madness at Abbott Point. If you’re a northerner, or former northerner, talk about why the reef is important to you here: http://fightforthereef.org.au/